Tennessee’s coaches worked long and hard to try and pull away one of the top players in the state of California. And on Wednesday, their efforts finally paid off.
Henry To’oto’o, the highest-rated linebacker from the state of California, chose to sign with Tennessee on National Signing Day, choosing the Vols over Alabama and Washington. To’oto’o announced his decision to sign with UT at a ceremony at his school, De La Salle.
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, To’oto’o is the No. 44 overall player, No. 3 outside linebacker, and No. 1 linebacker in the state of California in the 2019 class.
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The Vols went all out for the talented linebacker, and they had to fight off Alabama and Washington to land him. The Tide seemed like the leader for the longest time, but the departure of defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi gave the Vols an opening. And they took advantage of that.
Both Alabama and Tennessee had a unique relationship with To’oto’o that other schools couldn’t boast. The Tide and Vols each had alums from De La Salle on staff, with Alabama’s being the aforementioned Lupoi and Tennessee’s being quality control assistant and former Vol linebacker Kevin Simon.
Not only did Tennessee have Simon on staff, but tight ends coach and recruiting extraordinair Brian Niedermeyer was very pivotal in To’oto’o choosing the Vols.
To’oto’o took an official visit to Tennessee in January, and by all accounts that visit went very well. He visited Alabama two weeks after that, and the Tide seemed to have the momentum for him after that. Washington picked up a lot of late buzz for his signature, but the Vols managed to be the team that emerged victorious in his recruitment.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker has superb athleticism and an elite ability to pursue the ball carrier. He has great agility and is stronger than he looks. He possesses some high level vision and awareness and isn’t easy to stop when he’s intent on reaching either the quarterback or a running back. He’s not bad in the flat on passing downs either. His speed alone should help him see the field as a true freshman, and he has a lot of natural instincts and toughness that supplement that. To’oto’o also played running back for De La Salle, showing off his versatility and play-making ability.
As a senior for De La Salle, To’oto’o totaled 76 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, four sacks, and two fumble recoveries. He also ran for 489 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries according to MaxPreps. He won multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards for his district after his senior season.
In De La Salle’s championship game this past season, To’oto’o totaled six tackles and played the game with a broken foot. That injury sidelined him from participating in several all-star events he was invited to in January, such as the All-American Bowl and the Polynesian Bowl. But he’s expected to be ready to go for the fall.
With To’oto’o’s signature, the Vols now have three projected linebackers in their 2019 class. Four-star athlete Quavaris Crouch will be at linebacker starting this spring, and four-star defensive end Roman Harrison is expected to get his first shot at linebacker on defense.